UC Berkeley Business Faculty and Students Win Grants for Innovative Sustainability Solutions

Berkeley MBA students and Haas School faculty are among the winners of nearly $1 million in grants for innovative sustainability research and solutions, the business school’s Center for Responsible Business announced today, Earth Day (April 22). The students and faculty participated in two challenges: The global Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge and the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program at UC Berkeley.

The 2011 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge

A Berkeley MBA team using the power of play to reinforce healthy habits among your friends and colleagues was one of three graduate student groups who won a $10,000 grant today in the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge at the University of California, Berkeley. The challenge is funded by the Dow Chemical Company Foundation.

The challenge provides funding for sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.

The Berkeley challenge was administered by the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program housed in the Haas School of Business’ Center for Responsible Business. An interdisciplinary campus committee comprised of faculty and staff selected the winners.

UC Berkeley is one of seven universities around the world selected by Dow to participate in this effort. The student winners from all seven participating universities will attend an annual recognition event in October at UC Berkeley to celebrate their energy, commitment, and contribution to sustainable innovation.

The first-year MBA students developed a website and mobile application, named BetterUp, where people can challenge their friends and colleagues to engage in healthy behaviors, and earn points along the way that can be redeemed for rewards. Unlike similar systems, BetterUp leverages the strong existing relationships between users. BetterUp can also be used by companies to improve employee wellness or promote safe habits in the workplace, for example. The team consists of Berkeley MBA 2012 candidates Jamie Kong, Sarah Friedman, Galina Vlaeva, and Genevieve Wang.

Another UC Berkeley winner included Yu Zeng from the Department of Integrative Biology who developed a low-cost biological device to clean water surfaces. The device can, for example, remove pollutants from oil spills without harming the environment.

The third winning team, mechanical engineering students Daniel Arnold and Michael Sankur, developed software that allows users to control energy use between appliances in a home or office in order to help conserve energy during times of peak demand.

More details at: responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/sps-dowchallenge.html or dow.com/studentchallenge/.

The 2011 Sustainable Products and Solutions Program

The Sustainable Products and Solutions (SPS) Program funds research coming out of UC Berkeley that promises sustainable solutions to global challenges. This year, about $1 million worth of grants were distributed to ten research teams seeking innovative ways to integrate sustainability into products and business services or processes.

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the College of Chemistry developed the SPS Program with a five-year, multi-million dollar commitment from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation. In 2010, Kimberly-Clark and Waste Management Inc. joined to extend the program to support research into sustainable end-of-life management for consumer products. SPS works with a steering committee comprised of faculty and staff from the university to make the funding decisions.

The three business school teams receiving funding included:

Assessing the Social Impacts of Supply Chains
Sara Beckman, co-chair of the Haas School’s Fisher Center for Management & Technology, is part of a team that assesses the social impacts of supply chains. She is joined by David Dornfeld, Mechanical Engineering, and Zuo-Jun (Max) Shen, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. The globalization of manufacturing has caused serious social impacts that range from unacceptable working conditions to impacts on local resources like water. Their project will lay out a system to collect global data on social impact, similar to ones available to assess environmental impact, to help product designers make better decisions.

Towards a Green Supply Chain: Lifecycle Implications of Shipping Goods to California from Mexico vs. China
Omar Romero-Hernandez, a visiting scholar at Haas School of Business, is studying green supply chains. Building on previous work supported by the SPS Program, this project is developing a framework and methodology to help companies find the optimal sustainability strategy for selecting suppliers, and to provide a guide for suppliers and manufacturers in developing countries to become more sustainable.

The research focuses on a case study of the lifecycle implications of shipping goods to California from Mexico compared to shipping from China. He is joined by David Dornfeld, Mechanical Engineering; Z. Max Shen, Industrial Engineering and Operations; and Sergio Romero, Mechanical Engineering.

Clearing Arsenic from Drinking Water
John Danner, a lecturer in the Haas School’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, is part of a clean water project in Bangladesh together with Ashok Gadgil and Susan Addy, both in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Joyashree Roy, Jadavpur University.

They are addressing the issue of 60 million people in Bangladesh and India drinking groundwater contaminated with toxic levels of naturally-occurring arsenic. Gadgil's research lab developed ECAR, an effective, low-maintenance, low-waste arsenic remediation technology in 2006s and has been testing it in field trials supported by the SPS Program and others. The new research project includes a pilot project serving clean water to 2500 school children over several months, with the goal of demonstrating that the technology can be effectively scaled.

Two additional research teams received help from Berkeley MBA students — one seeking a chemistry-based solution to remove heavy metals from water and another seeking a way to store energy from sunlight.

For more information on the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program, visit responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/sps-about.html.